BLEAT Launch 000

  • Date: 01/12/12
  • Personnel: Andrew Rushby, Sam Royle, Ben Mills, Roland Von Glasow, Honza Chylík, Luke Surl, Lauren Gooch, Céline Heuzé, Karin van der Wiel, Rhiannon Davies.
  • Launch Location: Burton-Upon-Trent
  • Landing Location (approximate): North-east of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Map of landing area (.pdf)
  • Maximum Altitude: 28,210 metres
  • Flight time: Approximately 145 minutes
  • Payload status: not recovered

Launch summary by Tactical Officer Luke Surl:

With all the equipment checked and packed, the UEA BLEAT (Balloon Launch Exploration and Analysis Team) researchers were divided into two teams.

The first team awoke before dawn to head to the launch site in Burton-on-Trent, with the balloon and other equipment in one vehicle and (to comply with health and safety regulations) the helium canister travelled in a separate vehicle.

On arrival the team first obtained clearance from local airports, before inflating the balloon to it’s approx. 4 m^3 launch volume. Upon release the balloon was recorded to rise at 8 metres per second, the radiosonde reporting back the position, height, pressure and temperature of the balloon.

At this point the launch team followed the balloon on the ground as it travelled south-east. The second team, the chase team, had positioned themselves near the site predicted from forecast models for the landing. Both teams relayed information back and forth with Norwich-based ‘mission control’ who directed them as the data came in.

From the data received, as the balloon drifted over Northampton, it reached a maximum altitude of 28,210 metres above sea level (over three times the height of Everest) where the temperature was -57°C. The balloon burst and the parachute deployed as expected, the box continuing to drift to the South East.

The last location the radiosonde reported was north of Welwyn Garden City, at an altitude of 2 km. Directed by mission control, the chase team was quickly in position to search the area where the balloon may have landed, and searched the fields and forest area until loss of daylight prevented further searching. While the box and its cameras were not found on the day, the box bears a message with the team’s contact information – the team are hoping someone will claim the reward for its safe return in the next few days.

All in all the mission, planned as a shakedown flight for future payloads, was a success, as the BLEAT crew worked through the challenges associated with a high altitude balloon launch and successfully sent UEAs first explorer to these high altitudes. The team are already thinking about modifications and additional scientific equipment that can be deployed for the next flight.

Read the Mission Diary entry by Sam for more about this launch.


All radiosonde data can be downloaded in a .zip file from here


Partial hodograph data

Partial tephigram

Partial tephigram

Coverage elsewhere:


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